Working for 'free' – is it a viable marketing tool?

March 28th 2018, 12:07pm

Nothing is 'free' in business.

When we buy a product we all understand that there is an associated cost with that product; raw materials, staffing, offices/factories, business running costs, the list goes on. We understand this and buy products knowing this. We have the actual thing in our possession and can see it with our own eyes.

When we're selling a service, essentially us and our knowledge, people often struggle to grasp what they're buying. Buying us and our time is a much trickier concept to sell and so we have to work extra hard marketing the benefits of us, our experience and how we can help solve problems.

Many of us offer a 'free' consultation hour for our prospective clients. This hour gives the prospect time to assess you, your ethos, your capability and whether they can work with you.
Our Digital Sparkle #GrabAnHour was the basis of our marketing plan and for every four appointments we offered, three of the prospects became actual clients. (Our conversion ratio was three out of four – that's high!). It was a great marketing tool.

But nothing is 'free' in business. 
Every single minute we offer for 'free' is a cost to our business. All the #GrabAnHour sessions were a considered cost. We weighed up the price of other marketing options –flyers, networking, social media, events, exhibitions, advertising all cost money AND time –and the #GrabAnHour was simply the most cost-effective marketing option for Sparkle.  

The other reason we offered 'free' time was entirely for our own benefit – it gave us the opportunity to assess the prospective client (as much as they were scoping us out) and afforded us the opportunity to say no to some of them. Yes, on some occasions, it was clear that those potential clients weren't the best fit for us and we turned them down. 

Turning potential clients down is really difficult for small business service providers because we have to fight off all our competition in the first place to get them! But 'no' is the most powerful word in the small business owner's vocabulary and 'free' consultations give us the chance to say it. 

Truth be told, the very best bit of running Digital Sparkles is the people we meet every day and being able to help them get to grips with their digital marketing. I genuinely loved our #GrabAnHour sessions and miss not having the time to do as many as we once did. 

As a startup, winning new business was at the very top of the agenda for Digital Sparkles. Now we're more established, maintaining and developing the relationships we have with our existing clients is as important as winning new contracts. 

To celebrate our 5th birthday, we will be running a campaign for five businesses to win an hour each with Nicola to use for digital planning or training and this will be launched at our birthday party event on 17 April (register now!) – watch out for the campaign via our social media channels and newsletter (which you can sign up for here) and enter.

Find us on Twitter or in the #dodigital Facebook group.